July 14, 2009

One letter to US President Obama

The following letter to US President Obama is published with the permission of the author:

Dear President Obama,
I assume that Ambassador Hugo Llorens has fully briefed you on the reality of the situation in Honduras. I assume that he has informed you that no member of the Honduran armed forces holds a position of responsibility over our civil authorities. I assume that he has told you that the Constitution and laws of Honduras remain intact and are being respected.

I assume that Ambassador Llorens has conveyed to you the fact that only one person has died in Honduras as a result of the current political crisis, and that the unfortunate death of 19-year old Obed Murillo Mencia occurred when U.N. General Assembly president, Miguel d’Escoto Brockmann, and former president of Honduras, Manuel Zelaya, flew over Tegucigalpa aboard a Venezuelan aircraft in an effort to incite a popular insurrection. I assume he has reassured you that the aircraft was not fired upon, as President Chavez of Venezuela had hoped the stunt would have provoked. I assume you have been told that our Judicial and Legislative branches of government are functioning normally and without any interference.

I am not surprised by the way the U.S. Department of State has responded to what has occurred in Honduras. It is not the first time that the United States has erred and abandoned a friend and ally at a critical moment. It is a kind of behavior and logic that I find difficult to put into words in my native Spanish. Perhaps it can be understood in light of the extreme economic pressures that you are having to address in your country. I understand Mr. President that you have your own national priorities and that our small Central American republic may not be at the top of your list. I do not blame you for leaving us to our own fate, for if I were in your shoes I would also place the interests of my country first.

The U.S. is having to confront an endless array of storms which are not of your making. I can imagine that it is not easy to steer the ship of state when banks are closing and industries are failing. I know you are working hard to remedy these problems. Neither are you to blame for the ingenuous manner in which U.S. foreign policy toward Honduras has been implemented, leaving our country completely bare in the face of attacks from organizations such as the United Nations (U.N.) and the Organization of American States (O.A.S.) which have been manipulated by countries that follow ideologies that we consider threatening to our society and our way of life.

You are a much loved Mr. President, and I admire your talent. I know that you are well aware of what is happening in Honduras, but that you are trying to be prudent and listen to the cool wisdom of your advisers who stress that you should be pragmatic. I understand. The U.S. has re-established full diplomatic relations with Venezuela… a country that can ensure vast supplies of oil. How can a tiny country like Honduras compete, commercially and financially? I understand also that the U.S. does not want to jeopardize its relationship with Latin American countries by seeming to back the Honduran military because it needs their votes within the O.A.S. and even more so within the U.N. However, I do not see how a world power can simply choose to ignore the rising tide of socialism that is quickly spreading across Ibero-America. Long before you came to office, your country’s foreign policy in Latin America has been characterized by neglect and hesitancy, and this has created a tsunami which I believe should be of great concern to both the White House and your Congress.

Mr. President, the growth of socialism in Latin America is not a product solely created by the efforts of Latin American political leaders. We have to consider the reasons for why there is such receptiveness to this type of social system within our countries and try to understand why it is that our politicians are unable to learn the lessons of history. At the same time, we should not discount the ways in which U.S. foreign policy has played a role in the spread of socialism in our region.

A few days ago, the State Department announced that it would cut military assistance funding to Honduras. This sanction is directed against members of Honduras’ armed forces who trained at the Military School of the Americas and did not consult the U.S. prior to the arrest and exile of Mr. Zelaya. By cutting aid to our armed forces, Washington believes that it is punishing Honduras’ military, but the ultimate effect of this action is to empower and embolden the drug lords in our country that need to be stopped by our army. Other cutbacks in U.S. assistance to Honduras are equally unfortunate because those most impacted are the poor, as was the case with U.S. economic embargoes against the people of Cuba and Nicaragua many years ago. The commanders in Venezuela and Nicaragua are no doubt happy that Honduras has been left unguarded.

Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida, along with more than twenty of her colleagues, has clear and very good ideas related to the situation in Honduras. For example, she has recommended that the U.S. withhold its budget contribution to the O.A.S., given that Secretary General Insulza is using his organization’s funds to help finance his re-election campaign. Mr. Insulza was the director of the United States Studies Institute in the Center for Economic Research and Training (CIDE), and thus he is well-trained in how to neutralize U.S. influence within the O.A.S. If the State Department allows the re-election of the “panzer”, we will regret it both now and in the future.

Mr. President, I am the son of a much beloved former president of Honduras who was overthrown in 1963 by a military coup d’etat. I have in my possession the letter of solidarity that President John F. Kennedy wrote to my father. I understand better than you how undesirable it is to have to resort to force. But I ask that you also listen to people who have the ability to be objective in their thinking. As well as being a politician, my father was a physician. Whenever patients who were extremely ill came to him, my father would always say to them, “Go listen to a second opinion”. The love of democracy should never allow us to be blinded.


Ramón Villeda Bermúdez
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